First, you must empty the contents
of an elegantly frosted glass bottle
(“Chopin” in black script,
“POTATO VODKA” in block letters)
into the bathtub. This is
no bathtub gin tale.

Next, rinse it clean, reach
for that childhood
sea glass collection
you kept in an old
maraschino cherry jar. Fill the bottle
with your mermaid’s tears.

Create a dollhouse forest
with fresh Cuban cigars.
Use the empty wooden box
for the resonator to the guitar
you are constructing
in your sleep.

Come morning, position yourself
in front of the stage
that mysteriously appears
in Loring Park. Be transported
from the coldest day in Minnesota
so far this season to a summer evening

tucked in a crowd, standing
next to your best friend
inside the Entry circa 1995.
You share everything, even your name.
The first live Son Volt show ever.
Play “Out of the Picture” 8 times

in a row on that old stereo
you bought in 1991
to decipher the lyrics
to that Mats song better: “Die
within your reach . . . reach . . .
for the sky.” Sing along

to Syd Straw’s “Future 40s
(String of Pearls)” and
Toni Childs’ “Walk and Talk
Like Angels.” Oh, to be
“sitting on a swing
unfolding bits of string.”

No matter how loud
you belt out the words,
how much your voice carries
out the open window,
your neighbors won’t call
the police this time.

Open a box of running shoes,
lace them up, not too tight,
not too loose, take them on a test run
around Central Park. Repeat the loop—
this lap’s for your father.
Finish strong

along the penultimate stretch
of the old Wesleyan
X-Country course down Pine Street.
Fill the shoe box
with letters you received
in response to the thousands

you wrote during the first act
of your life.

Open the jewelry chest
filled with shrapnel
from Syd’s earring that exploded
on stage. Pause to recall
how she handed the pieces to you
as a souvenir in the middle of her set.

Scoop up the old New York City
subway tokens hidden
in the bottom drawer. You never did
get around to making earrings
from them. Dance, tuck, and roll down
a muddy hill. Go underground again.

Catch the #1 train to Last Stop!
Van Cortlandt Park! 242nd Street!

How many soul mates
haunt those Bronx
step streets
is the question
you refuse to relinquish
with a response.

Catch the last ferry
to Oak Bluffs. Spot
your grandparents’ old Eastville
cottage as East Chop
comes into view. Your mother’s
pipe organ playing clears the fog.

Pull your tattered copy
of No More Masks
off the shelf. Reread
Adrienne Rich’s “Women.”
You are one of three sisters too.
“Her stockings are torn but

she is beautiful.” Release
the sand from the cuffs

in your jeans. Never
drive a car. Return
to that midnight swim
36 years ago in a Connecticut pond
during a thunderstorm
with him,

so you never forget
what it means to be alive.
Everything gets dedicated
to sweet Sheri—only a week gone,
the crash still on repeat
whenever you closed your eyes.

Make your way back to 2021. Write
another poem before it’s all over.

Our Souls Lie Within These Flowered Bindings

In the dream, we’re riding
a Metro-North train
en route to a bold past
we know we can’t return to.

I read through college journals
looking for clues
like an unskilled detective who fears
what she might want to uncover.

Back then, I was desperate
for a replacement to escape
the sting of a broken
18-year-old heart. I scrawled:

“I want to know,
is it going to hurt?”

Little did I realize how that craving
would morph and consume me, how
the boundary between stage and audience
would dissolve before closed eyes.

In the dream, my phone slips
beneath the seat.
You find a cluster
of them on the dirty train car floor.

None mine. We laugh so hard
we’re sobbing.

We came so close:
The dancing, the long
drawn-out drunken hugs, making faces
at each other in the loud flying saucer

shaped dining hall
perched on a Connecticut hill.

That incident
when you bit me
on the neck. A slap
in the face that never occurred.

We signed up for that intro
to oceanography class together.
We thought the ocean meant
the Jersey Shore:

body surfing, gambling dens,
shoobies and bennies, Cape May
diamonds, beach badges,
Skee-Ball, boardwalk

saloons, meditating
under the stars.

Not upwelling, transform
faults, surges, gyres,
the reproductive habits
of limpets and sea worms,

or the truth
about the Coriolis effect.

In the dream, we’ve left city scenes
behind. In the dream, we know
you are dying. We refuse
to let that knowledge ruin the ride.


In the interval between winter storms,
I walk into Loring Park
in search of a moment to claim.

As I make tracks on what may,
or may not, be the pedestrian path,
I nearly trip on a spherical object

covered in snow. I brush it clean
with my glove—a diving helmet
made of copper and brass.

So many questions
I can’t answer. It looks so old,
predating Jacque Cousteau,

even Jean Painlevé.
No seahorses to study
in the ice-covered pond.

I drop to the frozen ground,
place the found object in my lap
and wait to be transported

to the glorious underwater wreck
of sister creatures escaping
the burden of pregnancy.

Finding a Poem in Martha Graham’s Blood Memory

Tucked between the page
where she describes “doom eager”
(Is it really an Icelandic term
or from a line in an Ibsen play?)
and a haunting black-and-white photo
of her performing “Lamentation,”

there’s a scrap of writing—
an attempt to recapture
four precious days and nights
spent in Iceland. And something else
about a ferry horn blasting long ago,
how its voice is its whistle.

What compelled me to reach
for Martha’s memoir
is as much mystery as
the collection of red herrings
bleeding into one another
on the yellowed paper.

This is where the earth opens up.
Don’t wear your coat inside
the Quonset hut, or
you’ll be cold outside.
It starts gradually, a slight shift
in color in the night sky.

We do the Peanuts dance,
stomping our feet
on the viewing deck to keep warm.
Someone has an app
to locate constellations.
A celestial ridge, a fluorescent aura,

a message best decoded
with a long exposure.
Inside Reykjavík’s Stofan Cafe,
a couple speaks rapid Italian
and sips strong coffee.
I think about bodies again.

It’s so American to hate your body.
I’m so American learning how to love.
I tremble, I shutter, I turn a corner
onto a boardwalk in the dunes
where you suggest
we both get it over with.

When I close my eyes
on an overseas plane, I see places
I’ve never visited come into focus.
I smell mortality in those lava rocks.
No solar plasma will go unnoticed.
The sun is drooling again.

It goes on and on
about tattooed buildings,
how the moonlight tastes
like a lilac halo,
how vertigo anchors me
to the hot ground, and

I’m reminded steam is not a sin.

Tonight I Found Myself

entering Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello’s
poem “Ode to This Small Joy.”

A giraffe is staring at me
outside my living room window

under the moon I can’t see
but know is there.

A giraffe is humming
and batting its long lashes at me.

I pick up the melody:
Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem.”

I join in. We hum past midnight
deep into the wee hours. I swear I hear

it whisper “There’s a crack
in everything” as day breaks

across that magnificent neck.
“That’s how the light gets in.”

“Ode to This Small Joy” by Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, illustration by Davis Te Selle, published in Orion Magazine, Autumn 2018

Why Did She Keep the Bamboo Knife + Spoon?

Because she wants to remember
how she indulged in a first class
airline ticket once.

Because she forgot the fork.

Because she will never forget
where she returned from:
the Vineyard + the City.

Because she can use them again.

Because she admires the knife’s
serratted edge, the subtle concave
curve of the spoon.

Because left-handers dominate her family.

Because she likes how eco-friendly,
biodegradable bamboo utensils
sounds when whispered

into a warm blanket after midnight.

Because she doesn’t need to worry
about stumbling upon her
reflection in them.

Because she must remember the guilt.

Because she refuses to settle
for the dead man’s float
when the tide goes out.

Because NYC where anything is possible.

Because the SeaGlass carousel
in the Battery has 30
internally illuminated,

shimmering fiberglass fish
that rotate on turntables inside
a chambered nautilus shaped pavilion.

Because John Lennon and the Dakota.

Because reflecting pools cover
the footprints of twin towers. Because
20 years can’t erase unspeakable loss.

Because it was a skunk she smelled.

Because where she learned
to swim
the ocean + the street.

Because the Beacon on Broadway.

Because feeding
pigeons + squirrels
also feeds rats.

Because the Rocky Beach.

Because the Flying Horses, the second
merry-go-round she would ride
that week, was her first.

Because no brass ring this time.

Because she’s a weathered cedar shake
in silent conversation
with stone walls winding up-island.

Because she never took the Middle Road.

Because Little Island rising
from the remnants of Pier 54
in the Hudson River.

Because danger hollow sidewalks in SoHo.

Because the Central Park reservoir
+ its remarkable views of residential
skyscrapers sprouting like weeds.

Because Nomans Land through the clouds.

Because tranquil greenery
belies hidden unexploded ordnance
buried beneath.

Because estuaries + the third rail.

Because tornado warning alarms
on her phone, relentless wind + rain,
rattling Surfside Inn walls,

+ wild reports of water spouts spotted
near the Aquinnah cliffs kept her
awake the last night on the island.

Because running along Beach Road.

Because she thought she might die
right then + there. Because
that would be okay with her.

Because the Brooklyn Bridge.

Because To the Lighthouse
is a book
+ a sign.

Because a lone swan in the lagoon.

Because Mildred Howard’s “The House
that Will Not Pass for Any Color
than its Own” on Belvedere Plaza.

Because saudade.

Because home is fluid + eco-friendly
+ the answer to every question
ever asked of a poem.

Because what if that was the last time.

The East River Is the Earthly River

After a line from Eavan Boland’s “Traveler”

Not a river at all, this
tidal strait is my state of flux—
takes me home

to Connecticut or New Jersey
depending on which way the water flows

when I jump in. I would never
really take that plunge
no matter how clean the EPA claims it is.

Definitely not
after a thunderstorm.

A tri-state dialogue
navigates through my heart,
from my father’s lateral root system,

tracked and traced
and recast as my own.

He may have left the planet
to commingle with the stars
in the night sky. I remain

his Ursa Minor.
When his mother died,

he picked me up in Astoria
on his way from Morristown to Rockville
to lay her to rest

where we would lay his constellation
of ashes 24 years later.

I’ve crossed
in both directions:
on foot and by train, taxi,

aerial tramway, ferry, bus, even plane,
over bridges, through tunnels.

My father taught me how to swim
in a rocky sound off an island
217 nautical miles northeast

of the East River.

I will not freestyle
or breaststroke or backstroke
or butterfly across.

Some brackish stigmas
die hard beneath the ever so slightly
pulsing and unhinged Polaris.

Goldilocks Strikes Again

What is that noise I hear
coming from the bedroom?

WTF are you doing
sitting on my bed?

I’m testing your mattress
to see how sturdy it is.

I can tell you have a memory
foam pad, and I can feel beneath

is an ancient mattress.
No wonder your hips hurt.

Shut up! Get off my bed!
How did you get in here?

Same way
I always do.

Reminds me—my father
ate tomatoes right off

the vine like apples. He would say:
They’re fruit after all.

What does that have to do with me?

He also said: Don’t break
into people’s homes.

Who are you calling?

Who do you think?

The police?

Nah, I’m texting Nectar.

What’s so Funny about these Senryū?

Even the headaches
each morning didn’t stop her
from pouring one more.

So many bottles
clanking in the recycle bin—
chimes of shame sound.

They passed out on the lawn
one too many times that summer.
The paper boy’s laughter.

Their story merely
alcoholic palimpsest
no one remembers

to tell till now,
38 years later, with
nitro cold brew on tap.

Anxiety | My Smoke Alarm

This anxiety of mine beeps
incessantly when the battery
needs replacing.

Screeches when the stirfry
heats up. When
steam from the shower

escapes the bathroom.
Is that dish fattening?
What if someone breaks

into my apartment
and slices open
the hemp curtain

with a switchblade?
Is it waterproof?

Toxic? How does that extinguisher
work again? Where’s the fire?